Avocado inspectors attacked, could lead to shortage in California

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Be patient with your bag of unripened avocados, because they might become more difficult to find in grocery stores pretty soon.According to a translated June 18 news release from U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar, two United States Department of Agriculture employees were attacked and detained while inspecting avocados in Michoacán, “the world’s leading producer” of the coveted fruit. Though the inspectors have since been released, the department is halting avocado and mango inspections in the region as a safety measure. USDA press representatives told SFGATE via email that operations have been paused “until further notice.”Salazar wrote that avocados will still be exported to the U.S. from other Mexican states, and that this pause will not affect produce currently in transit. Regardless, Daniel Sumner, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis, said that fewer avocados overall could result in higher prices soon. “The typical market response to a drop in imports would be for prices to rise to ration what little production is available to buyers who are willing to pay very high prices,” he told SFGATE via email. Overall, he anticipates that avocados will become more expensive if the disruption lasts longer than a week. Mounting evidence also suggests that this could happen again, too. While Michoacán Gov. Alfredo Ramirez Bedolla reportedly told Mexico’s Radio Formula that the USDA inspectors were never attacked or detained, plenty of reports point to the dangers of harvesting the lucrative fruit. For years now, news outlets have documented the corruption and violence that surrounds avocados, which have been dubbed the “green gold of Mexico.”“The booming avocado industry has expanded in parallel to criminal organizations,” a 2023 report from the Greens-European Free Alliance reads. “Like limes, Michoacán avocados are a prime example of a flourishing legal market deeply infiltrated by criminal actors – and the free trade agreements acted as catalyzers for profit and market expansion, while violence has continued to rise.”“The last political disruption scare was in 2022,” Sumner told SFGATE. “Then a threat of violence against inspectors caused the US to suspend imports for a few days, which was not long enough to affect the market much.”See more coverage of top California stories here | Download our app.

Be patient with your bag of unripened avocados, because they might become more difficult to find in grocery stores pretty soon.

According to a translated June 18 news release from U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar, two United States Department of Agriculture employees were attacked and detained while inspecting avocados in Michoacán, “the world’s leading producer” of the coveted fruit.

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Though the inspectors have since been released, the department is halting avocado and mango inspections in the region as a safety measure. USDA press representatives told SFGATE via email that operations have been paused “until further notice.”

Salazar wrote that avocados will still be exported to the U.S. from other Mexican states, and that this pause will not affect produce currently in transit. Regardless, Daniel Sumner, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis, said that fewer avocados overall could result in higher prices soon.

“The typical market response to a drop in imports would be for prices to rise to ration what little production is available to buyers who are willing to pay very high prices,” he told SFGATE via email. Overall, he anticipates that avocados will become more expensive if the disruption lasts longer than a week.

Mounting evidence also suggests that this could happen again, too.

While Michoacán Gov. Alfredo Ramirez Bedolla reportedly told Mexico’s Radio Formula that the USDA inspectors were never attacked or detained, plenty of reports point to the dangers of harvesting the lucrative fruit. For years now, news outlets have documented the corruption and violence that surrounds avocados, which have been dubbed the “green gold of Mexico.”

“The booming avocado industry has expanded in parallel to criminal organizations,” a 2023 report from the Greens-European Free Alliance reads. “Like limes, Michoacán avocados are a prime example of a flourishing legal market deeply infiltrated by criminal actors – and the free trade agreements acted as catalyzers for profit and market expansion, while violence has continued to rise.”

“The last political disruption scare was in 2022,” Sumner told SFGATE. “Then a threat of violence against inspectors caused the US to suspend imports for a few days, which was not long enough to affect the market much.”

See more coverage of top California stories here | Download our app.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.